Most of us know India from books and movies. They have firmly fixed the image of the subcontinent known before 1949 when Rajasthan ceased to be controlled by the British Crown and became an autonomous state. The contribution of filmmakers made this part of India known to a European audience, which had the largest influence on how the culture and history of the country was perceived. In addition, Rajasthan had always attracted numerous tourists and provided inspiration to artists. It was for them that, upon the initiative of Indian Railways and Rajasthan Touristic Development Corporation, a luxury train was put into service on 26 January 1982. One year later, it was ranked fourth in the list of the most luxurious trains of the world.
The Palace of Wheels consists of 14 carriages, each commemorating the name of a palace in the former Princely States: Hawa Mahal, Chandra Mahal, Surya Mahal, Moti Mahal, Sukh Mahal, Jal Mahal, Padmini Mahal, Kishori Mahal, Phool Mahal, Jogi Mahal, Kumbha Palace, Jai Palace, and Lalgarh Palace.
A super-deluxe carriage goes by the name of Taj Mahal. The rulers of Rajasthan and the British Viceroy of India used to travel in it. The furnishings of the carriages combine the art of the Far East with comfort and modernity. They represent the cultural ethos of a specific princely state, among other things, by using typical regional furniture, handcrafted items and paintings. Every seat in the air-conditioned train is within the range of Wi-Fi and the public address system. Passengers can make use of individual safe boxes and a currency exchange service. The Palace on Wheels has two restaurants: “Maharaja” and “Maharani”, specialising in sumptuous meals, the best wines and courteous, regal service. In addition, there is a bar, a small amusement arcade, an onboard laundry, but also… a bathing parlour and a spa. Here guests can attend biological renovation sessions during which, apart from a massage, they can receive hair and skin treatments. Every day daily newspapers are delivered and outgoing mail is collected. Every passenger is under the constant care of a khidmatgar, that is, a male servant in livery.
The train departs from New Delhi, going to Jaipur, Sawai Madhopur, Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Bharatpur and Agra and returns to New Delhi after eight days. At each stage of the journey passengers are offered local sightseeing tours in Volvo buses. They visit places natural interest but also numerous forts and palaces. The journey culminates in a trip to Agra and the Red Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, near the gardens of the Taj Mahal.